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Cyprus report Cyprus report
by Euro Reporter
2010-02-15 08:12:28
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Christofias – Anastasiades – letters – talks

President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has said that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat had asked for the direct talks to be interrupted after the UN Secretary-General’s visit to the island, but afterwards reconsidered his stance as far as the continuation of the talks was concerned.  Christofias made the statement in a reply letter to leader of the opposition Democratic Rally party, Nicos Anastasiades who asked to be informed about the Greek Cypriot side’s stance on the continuation of the talks, following Ban Ki-moon’s January visit to Cyprus.

Both Christofias and Anastasiades` letters were made public on Saturday by the Spokesman`s office, following consultation with the DISY leader.  In his letter dated 12 February 2010, Anastasiades had said that after meetings with ambassadors of countries such as the US, Finland, Sweden and Denmark as well as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, he has “ascertained a concern on the international community’s part as far as the negotiating process is concerned”.

Anastasiades said that bearing in mind Talat’s statement that he is ready to continue the intensive round of negotiations, “I ascertain the danger that some will try to present our side as the one which is delaying and therefore undermine the prospects of the negotiation process”.  Calling on the President to inform him on Christofias’ intentions and decisions, Anastasiades further cited his party’s position which was outlined at the last meeting of the National Council that the Greek Cypriot side should not view negatively the possibility of extending the intense negotiations provided that our side is outstandingly prepared and that the negotiations will extend to cover significant chapters including the issue of property, territory, security and settlers.

In his reply dated 12 February 2010, President Christofias underlines that “Mr. Talat has asked me to interrupt the dialogue after the Secretary-General’s visit, to concentrate on his pre-election campaign”.  “Showing understanding, I agreed with him. At the last day of the intense negotiations, Mr. Talat came with a new request to continue the meetings after the 1st of February 2010 because he thought it would benefit him. I again agreed with Mr. Talat”, President Christofias said.  Noting that Talat explained to Ban why he was seeking a break in the negotiating dialogue and that later he reviewed his position, I “responded and have already submitted to Mr. Talat and the UN four dates for all day meetings”, President Christofias said.

The President agrees with Anastasiades that the necessary preparation should be preceded and it is for this reason that he has asked the first meeting to be held on 24 February, the second on March 4th, the third on March 16 and the fourth on March 30. “I must admit that with regret I ascertain an orchestrated effort on the part of specific sides to present our side as negative as far as continuing the talks is concerned”, President Christofias underlined.  He explains that “I say specific sides because when I met the Ambassadors of the Five Permanent Members and explained to them how things are and our position, their unanimous positions were that they greatly appreciate the initiatives and, understanding and patience as far as the dialogue which is taking place or took place and which will continue”.

Referring to Anastasiades’ point where he talks about some who will try to present the Greek Cypriot side as the one which is delaying the process, President Christofias stressed: «I want to be clear. Only maliciously can such charge be made against us. On the other hand, I want to make it clear that it is neither my responsibility as President and negotiator nor the responsibility of our side the possible election of Mr. Talat. I categorically reject even the slightest thought that we will be blamed for a possible failure on Mr. Talat’s part in the so called elections”.  President Christofias further repeated that no substantial progress has been achieved on various chapters during the negotiations, noting that “our side is not at all responsible for this”.  The President also said: “I want to make it clear that under no circumstances, as President of the Republic and as negotiator I will make unacceptable concessions to the Turkish Cypriot side and to Mr. Talat merely for his possible re-election”.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Peace talks began in September 2008 with a view to finding a negotiated settlement to reunite the country. In January 2010, Christofias and Talat conducted two rounds of intensive talks that lasted seven days. They will meet again in the context of the talks on February 24.


Economy remains rooted in recession

The economy remained stuck in recession in the fourth quarter of last year, flash estimates showed. A surge in government spending in the last quarter of 2009 helped reduce the rate of quarterly decline in gross domestic product to 0.3 per cent, compared with a contraction of 0.8 per cent in the third quarter, the statistics department said.

Year-on-year, real GDP fell 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to 2.5 per cent in the third, it said. Seasonally adjusted year on year figures for the fourth quarter were also down by 2.7 per cent. It did not offer full year figures. The finance ministry has previously put the rate of economic decline for the whole year at 1.0 per cent. "Winter quarters are always the weakest: however there are payments made in the fourth quarter by the government, so that is normally reflected in economic performance," economist Stelios Platis told Reuters, referring to the quarterly comparison.

Cyprus slipped into a recession in the first half of 2009, on a collapse in earnings on the property market, a buoyant sector of growth in previous years, and in tourism. Tourism represents about 11 per cent of GDP. Arrivals were down 10.9 per cent in 2009 while earnings from the sector slumped almost 17 per cent. Figures for January, released yesterday showed that arrivals fell by 2.4 per cent last month year-on-year. Tourism represents about 11 per cent of GDP.  January holidaymaker numbers reached 45,952 compared with 47,066 in the same period in 2009, the statistics department said.

There was a 10.2 per cent nosedive in the number of British visitors, who make up the bulk of arrivals to the island, and an 8.1 per cent drop in German tourism, although arrivals from Greece rose by 8.4 per cent last month. "The recession is not that deep," Platis said. "One big project or a few large infrastructure projects is enough to bring the economy out of a recession." The fourth quarter contraction was led by construction, hotels and restaurants, and also hit trade and transport. The broader services sector was the only sector recording a positive performance, and the financial services sector showed marginal growth, the statistics department said.

Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said on Thursday that if the government’s plan to save the economy was not pushed through there was a danger Cyprus would end up with the same economic crisis as Greece.


Confusion over possible new transplant centre

The future of organ transplantation was mired in confusion yesterday, following the announced plan by the government to build a regional transplant facility within the Nicosia General hospital. The lack of detail contained in the announcement, made during Thursday's Parliamentary Health Committee meeting, and has prompted speculation about the government's motives and about the future of the Paraskevaidion transplant centre which currently performs kidney transplants. Petros Petrides, General Director of the General Hospital, said yesterday that "The correct image was not given to parliament, with the result that commotion was created."

The commotion was twofold. Firstly, there was no clear indication of when or how the new centre would be built, or even how it could feasibly offer transplants to the region without a ready supply of organs. House Health Committee President, Stella Kyriakidou said yesterday "I did not see that there was a clear plan, and the Health Committee was not given a clear idea of the details, when and how it would happen. We were only told they (the government) have decided to do it."

It emerged yesterday that the Cabinet has already set aside the funds to build the centre, even though they could not show how the money would be spent. One healthcare expert estimated that to construct a dedicated centre would cost at least €10 million. Secondly, it was not clear how the new centre would relate to the Paraskevaidion Centre, which has been performing transplants for over 25 years and has a wealth of expertise.

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